Photo Credit: John Sullivan

Willow Run has a deep history of innovation and was initially built by Henry Ford as an advanced aircraft manufacturing facility during World War II. It was redeveloped by General Motors in the 1950s as a powertrain plant that operated until 2010.

Riveting a center wing section for a B-24E (Liberator) bomber in the horizontal position at Ford’s big Willow Run plant.  National Archives and Records Administration, 196387.

Now, it will become the premiere national facility for mobility and advanced automotive testing and product development.

The center is uniquely positioned to accommodate the broad needs of industry and government with its capabilities to test vehicles, roads, infrastructure and communication systems, while providing room to grow and adapt as technology dictates. The site comes with a number of desirable features and structures already in place including double overpasses, a railroad crossing and a highway loop to test at sustained highway speeds. Testing can occur during all four seasons, day and night, in sun, rain, ice and snow. These elements help to create the perfect environment for testing and setting national standards for mobility technologies before vehicles and other products are deployed. The center will also serve as a development facility that will allow companies to lease space for office and research use, garages and other amenities.

The American Center for Mobility will expand the region’s business incubation and acceleration capabilities while bringing great economic opportunity to southeast Michigan and the United States.

The reactivation of the Willow Run site reinforces Michigan’s global position as the automotive leader while creating new innovations that will drive the future of mobility.

American Center for Mobility Partners with MSU, Texas A&M Transportation Institute on Workforce Study

YPSILANTI TWP., Mich., Feb. 12, 2018 – The American Center for Mobility (ACM) has commissioned a workforce study being undertaken by Michigan State University (MSU) and Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) to begin to understand and quantify impacts on today’s transportation jobs.

The study focuses on driving-related jobs including professional truck drivers, taxi drivers and delivery drivers.

“Our goal is to ensure that employees, employers and policymakers are informed about the potential developments, so they can approach them proactively rather than reacting to issues as they arise,” said Soraya Kim, ACM’s Chief Innovation Officer who is leading the education initiative.

“The adoption of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) has the potential to lead to job impacts in the transportation and mobility sector and create a range of new labor opportunities in businesses that develop and implement innovative usage models for CAVs,” said Shelia Cotten, MSU Foundation Professor and Director of the Sparrow/MSU Center for Innovation and Research.

The study, led by MSU, will also identify how the future workforce should be trained to provide the skilled jobs that will power the development and deployment of this beneficial technology. The results will be shared this summer.

“The impacts depend largely on the way that the technology will really be introduced and utilized, as well as the readiness and rate of introduction,” said John Maddox, President and CEO of the American Center for Mobility. “No one yet knows if, how, or when jobs will be affected.”

TTI is supporting the study based on its research in truck platooning.

“Connected and automated technologies have the potential to create a safer and less stressful occupation for platooning truck drivers while creating opportunities to be involved with cutting-edge technologies that will change the way freight logistics will be delivered in the future,” said Christopher Poe, Assistant Director, Connected and Automated Transportation Strategy at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

Located on the 500-acre historic Willow Run site in Ypsilanti Township, ACM is a global center for testing and validation, product development, education and standards work for CAVs and other technologies.

The U.S. DOT designated proving grounds provides a myriad of real-world environments with the ability to test under varied, yet controlled conditions. Its unmatched range of driving environments and infrastructure includes a 2.5-mile highway loop, a 700-foot curved tunnel, two double overpasses, intersections and roundabouts.

In December, the Center officially opened for business. Testing will occur during all four seasons, day and night, in sun, rain, ice and snow. These elements help to create the perfect environment for testing and developing voluntary national standards for mobility technologies before vehicles and other products are deployed onto public roads.

Since summer, ACM has been working with Intertek, its operations and maintenance partner, to make sure the necessary and unique AV protocols, procedures and operations were created and implemented to support safe testing.

In October, ACM signed a memorandum of understanding with 15 colleges and universities in Michigan to collaborate on creating educational pathways to train and prepare students to support automated vehicle testing and implementation.

To date, $110 million has been secured to construct the first two phases, and additional private investment announcements are expected soon. The next phase of construction will begin this spring and will feature an urban driving environment, followed by ACM headquarters and a tech park.
AARP® and Waymo are co-sponsors of the study. Other announcements of support are expected in coming weeks.

About ACM

The American Center for Mobility is a non-profit testing, education and product development facility for future mobility, designed to enable safe validation and self-certification of connected and automated vehicle technology, and to accelerate the development of voluntary standards. ACM is one of 10 U.S. DOT designated Automated Vehicle Proving Grounds in the U.S. The Center is a joint initiative with the State of Michigan founded in partnership with the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the University of Michigan, Business Leaders for Michigan and Ann Arbor SPARK. To learn more about ACM, visit

ACM is part of PlanetM, a collaborative that represents Michigan’s unique and vast ecosystem, connecting resources and opportunities for its consortium of members. Made up of private industry, government and institutions of higher learning, partners in PlanetM share the common goal of leading the development of smart solutions that will change the way people and goods are transported across all modes of transportation. To learn more about how Michigan is leading the transportation revolution or to become a member, visit PlanetM.

American Center for Mobility Media Contact:
Tracey L. Shavers Jr.
(248) 203-8662

Past Releases:

Snyder and Michigan tout American Center for Mobility’s rapid growth, success at NAIAS

American Center for Mobility Open for Testing

American Center for Mobility announces Intertek will serve as its operations and maintenance partner

Visteon Partners with American Center for Mobility as Founding Member, Driving Development of Autonomous Vehicles

Hyundai America Technical Center Invests $5 Million in American Center for Mobility

American Center for Mobility Leads Collaborative Effort on Education, Workforce Development with 15 Michigan Colleges and Universities

American Center for Mobility Issues Request for Partnership to Develop HQ, Labs

Ford Motor Co. pledges $5 million to support the American Center for Mobility

U.S.​ ​DOT​ ​New​ ​Automated​ ​Driving​ Systems​ ​Guidance​ ​in​ ​Alignment​ ​with American​ ​Center​ ​for Mobility

Toyota to Collaborate with the American Center for Mobility

American Center for Mobility CEO Testifies on Self-Driving Vehicles for U.S. Senate Committee

American Center for Mobility signs agreements with Institute of Transportation Engineers, SAE International in effort to fast-track connected, automated vehicle standards

Angelo lafrate Construction Company awarded $24 million contract for connected, automated vehicle test bed

American Center for Mobility designated by US Department of Transportation as national automated vehicle proving ground

AT&T and the American Center for Mobility Fuel the Future of Automated Driving

Snyder and Michigan celebrate American Center for Mobility groundbreaking at Willow Run (PDF)

The American Center for Mobility Supports Federal AV Guidance (PDF)

Agreement Reached on Willow Run Purchase (PDF)